Long delayed, Bonanza Drive tunnel quietly opens
The long-delayed pedestrian-bicyclist tunnel underneath Bonanza Drive quietly opened in April, providing an alternative route for people needing to cross the busy street.
Park City officials have not publicized the opening and the City Hall staffer overseeing the project said this week tunnel-related work is continuing. Matt Cassel, the Park City engineer, said the crews at the site have been installing guardrails and clearing the construction site since the opening.
Cassel said there has been a "steady flow of people using it" since the tunnel opened.
The tunnel is seen as one of the most important upgrades City Hall has undertaken using funding that was raised through a ballot measure to finance improvements to pedestrian and bicyclist routes. It is situated close to Bonanza Drive’s intersection with the Rail Trail.
It now serves as the crucial link for pedestrians and bicyclists between Prospector and Old Town. Someone can now walk or bicycle from the vicinity of Main Street to the Park City School District campus without having to cross a major street at the surface level. The tunnel also provides easy access to the popular Rail Trail from points south and west.
The tunnel is approximately 125 feet long, with the floor being approximately 13 feet below the road surface.
"They’re finding it and using it," Cassel said.
He anticipates a celebration marking its opening will be scheduled by Memorial Day.
The tunnel gives pedestrians and bicyclists an alternative to what has long been considered one of the most dangerous road crossings inside Park City. There have been repeated close calls between drivers and pedestrians or bicyclists crossing Bonanza Drive close to the location of the tunnel.
City Hall over the years has taken steps to make the crossing at the surface level safer, installing signs and flashing lights that can be activated by a pedestrian or bicyclist wanting to cross the street.
The tunnel was built as part of the wider Bonanza Drive roadwork. The overall Bonanza Drive work, stretching from 2009 until this year, was priced at just less than $8 million and included the tunnel, the redo of the road, the installation of a sewer line and the construction of sidewalks. The tunnel is estimated to account for approximately 30 percent of the overall cost.
City Hall had hoped the tunnel would make its debut last October, but the project encountered delays as designs for retaining walls built next to the walkways into and out of the tunnel needed to be modified to work in the soil conditions at the site.
The walkway on the western side of the tunnel edges up against Poison Creek, and workers have put down sandbags between the top of the walkway wall and the creek. There are concerns about Poison Creek jumping its banks during the spring snowmelt.
Trish Dunne, who lives on Park Avenue, went through the tunnel Thursday morning with her dog, Biggie, headed toward the Rail Trail. She said she will use the tunnel frequently.
"It’s crossing a street versus not crossing a street. It’s always safer not to have to cross the street," Dunne said, calling the tunnel "way more convenient."
The Bonanza Drive tunnel’s debut comes six months after the opening of another pedestrian-bicyclist tunnel built by City Hall — underneath Kearns Boulevard outside the Park City School District campus. The Kearns Boulevard tunnel was financed by the same ballot measure.
Charlie Sturgis, the executive director of Mountain Trails Foundation, a not-for-profit group dedicated to widening the local trail network, said he anticipates the tunnel will be especially popular in the summer as people head to the Rail Trail.
"If you’re trying to bike or walk it, getting across it has . . . always been on the dicey side," Sturgis said.
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